Am I an E-Learning Drill Sergeant?

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I seem to have some OCD tendencies when it comes to reviewing e-learning courses. I sometimes wonder if developers make faces when they receive my feedback, envisioning me as some kind of e-learning drill sergeant.

“Delete the extra space between paragraphs two and three!”

“This image runs into the text…move it to the left!”

“Change that dash to a colon!”

(I promise, I’m much nicer than that…at least, I hope so!)

In the quest to make things perfect, I sometimes forget to note what looks pretty darn good. Our developers are seriously talented people who turn storyboards into professional, interactive courses. As I copyedit storyboard files, there are times when I have trouble imagining how something is going to look. It’s exciting to see how a developer can bring pages of text and image suggestions to life in the first online draft. But my admiration is sometimes forgotten as I start looking for what needs to be fixed.

I think we’re all familiar with scenarios like this in our everyday lives. Imagine going to a restaurant and ordering a meal. When the food arrives at your table, the sandwich is a mouth-watering masterpiece, but the French fries are mealy and undercooked. If you’re anything like me, you might ignore the sandwich and immediately point out the sorry state of the French fries to your server. In the end, you might neglect mentioning how great the rest of the meal was or how attentive the server was about solving the problem.

It can feel defeating to constantly hear about what is wrong and never being told what is going well. If you think about it, positive feedback is often more beneficial to the learning curve than negative feedback. I think we can all agree that positive feedback not only feels good, but it also helps steer us in the right direction. If we know that something has been done correctly and exceeds expectations, we are likely to repeat the practices that made it happen. It ends up becoming an ongoing journey of trying to better ourselves and our work, rather than just trying to avoid making mistakes or getting negative feedback.  That’s why I recently decided to make a concerted effort to let our developers know when I think they’ve done a great job.

Even when we do have negative feedback, we can consider how we phrase it. If we bark orders, we can hardly expect them to be met with enthusiasm. Sometimes the stress of a deadline or hectic schedule can trickle into the tone of our comments, making us sound less than pleasant. And since the tone of written communication can be hard to decipher, comments can sound even harsher than we intended them to. Take a look at this example:

Feedback #1: “This slide is a mess! You need to go back and fix the spacing and alignment. And what’s with all the erratic bullet punctuation?”

Feedback #2: “Please make the paragraph spacing and alignment consistent. Also, all of the bulleted items should end in a period. (Nice job on the graphics, by the way!)”

Which type of feedback would you prefer to receive? We all learned the value of “please” and “thank you” as children, and they go a long way. I’m not proposing adding smiley-faced emoticons to each request or piling on insincere compliments to soften the blow of the criticisms, but if I see an element that looks particularly good, why not tell the person responsible? Most people like hearing when their work is appreciated.

Interactions with our colleagues can have a powerful influence on whether or not they (and we) enjoy our jobs. In the end, fostering a positive environment (while maintaining quality and professionalism) benefits not only the project team but also a company’s reputation.

How do you like to give or receive positive feedback? Share your thoughts by commenting below.

Terri Bowen
Artisan E-Learning

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